The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program provides a flexible funding source for state and local governments to fund transportation projects and programs to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA) and its amendments. CMAQ money supports transportation projects that reduce mobile source emissions in areas designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as in nonattainment or maintenance of national ambient air quality standards. Eligible activities include travel demand management strategies, such as telecommute options, traffic flow improvements, and public fleet conversions to cleaner fuels, among others.
CMAQ funds must be invested in a state's nonattainment or maintenance area(s). The money must be spent on projects that reduce ozone (O3) precursors – volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides(NOx) – carbon monoxide (CO), or particulate matter (PM) from transportation sources. States without nonattainment or maintenance areas may use their CMAQ funds for projects eligible under the CMAQ or Surface Transportation Programs anywhere in the state. All CMAQ projects must come from a transportation plan and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The state transportation department is responsible for distributing CMAQ funds.
All projects must conform to established CMAQ guidance. The federal share for most CMAQ-eligible projects is 80 percent. The CMAQ program operates on a reimbursable basis, so funds are not provided until work is completed.
Telecommuting (sometimes referred to as teleworking) occurs when paid workers reduce their commute by carrying out all, or part of, their work away from their normal place of business, usually from home or a telework center. The purpose is to move the work to the worker instead of moving the worker to work.
Telecommuting is an example of a Travel Demand Management (TDM) project. TDM strategies are techniques or programs to reduce the demand for Single Occupant Vehicle (SOV) travel. TDM strategies can improve air quality by decreasing vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through the implementation of alternate transportation strategies. Promotion of employee trip reduction programs, development of transportation management plans, and establishment of "auto-free zones" fit into the category of TDM strategies.
Telecommuting can play a role in combating both traffic congestion and air pollution by providing employees with an important alternative to driving alone to work at peak hours everyday. Working from home even one or two days a week, or one or two days a month, can not only ease congestion and improve employee morale, but also improve air quality.
Telecommuting is receiving increased attention due to the National Telecommuting and Air Quality Act of 1999 (HR 2084/Public Law 106-69, Section 365) that introduces a market-based incentive program to encourage telecommuting. The pollution-credit program allows businesses with teleworkers to gain pollution credits that can be sold to other businesses.
The Department of Transportation supports the establishment of telecommuting programs. Planning, technical and feasibility studies, training, coordination, marketing and promotion are eligible activities under CMAQ. Construction or physical establishment of telecommuting centers, computer and office equipment purchases and related activities are not eligible.
There are several examples of successful telecommuting programs across the country showing measurable reductions in the number of employee trips and VMT.
Houston: The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), in partnership with local and national stakeholders and EPA, designed a program to provide incentives for businesses to implement telework programs. The program provides tax credits for emission reductions to companies and their employees who reduce VMT through telecommuting. It allows a tax deduction for those who donate their emission credits to H-GAC's Area Emission Reduction Credit Organization (AERCO), a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. The Program also includes a region-wide clean air initiative and public relations campaign.
The conformity analysis for the Houston-Galveston transportation plan and Transportation Improvement Program lists telecommuting as one of four "commute solutions" in the Voluntary Mobile Emissions Program. The $9.6 million Commute Solutions programs received $7.68 in CMAQ funds and the estimated emissions reductions were 32 kg/day VOC, 112 kg/day CO, and 45 kg/day NOx.
Philadelphia: The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, in partnership with local and national stakeholders and EPA, designed a program to promote telecommuting and to quantify the associated emission reductions. They wanted to explore the potential for tradable credits and other incentives to motivate employers to develop telecommute programs. Philadelphia initiated its pilot program in March 2000 based on a model developed by the local Design Committee tailored to meet the city's business market and needs. By early 2002, 79 employees in five companies had enrolled in the program. The estimated emissions reductions were 52 kg/day VOC, and 6 kg/day NOx.
Washington Metropolitan Region: The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), through the Commuter Connections Telework Resource Center (TRC), conducted a 21-month Telework Demonstration Project with eight organizations in the Washington Metropolitan Area. The objectives were to help employers evaluate telecommuting as a business strategy; document the effects of telecommuting on travel behavior, employee performance, and costs and savings to the organizations; as well as to increase awareness of teleworking and create the infrastructure to support it within the participating organizations, so the programs could be expanded at the end of the project.
The COG provided consulting services to help employers start or expand telecommute programs in exchange for using the sites as case studies. The selected sites were required to have top-level support, a telecommute team, and a designated coordinator, as well as equipment and communications services.
The total cost of the Telework Demonstration Project was $397,600. The District of Columbia and the State of Virginia funded the program with CMAQ funds. Maryland's provided state appropriated funds. Estimated emissions reductions were 9 kg/day VOC and 18 kg/day NOx.
For more information, please contact:
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration
Office of Natural and Human Environment
400 7th Street, S.W., Room 3240
Washington, D.C. 20590; 202-366-6724
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